Many ‘political Islam’ movements share our values, say UK MPs

The government should narrow its definition of ‘political Islam’ and recognise that many Islamic political movements share the same values as Britain, according to a report by an influential committee of MPs.

The report criticises the Foreign Office for using the term to describe both groups that embrace “democratic principles and liberal values” and others that instead hold “intolerant, extremist views.”

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, said: “We absolutely agree with the FCO on the need for a nuanced approach to the broad phenomenon of ‘political Islam’. We only regret that this approach does not appear to have been applied to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, which failed to mention some of what we saw as the most elementary factors that determine the group’s current behaviour.”

The committee said the FCO had “hindered” its inquiries by refusing to give it a full, or redacted copy of the review, or allow Sir John Jenkins to give oral evidence.

The watchdog criticised the Government’s handling of the Review as there was a delay of 18 months between its completion and the release of its main findings last December on the last day the Commons sat before the Christmas recess.

The committee warned the handling of the Muslim Brotherhood review threw up wider concerns about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) attitude to what constitutes “political Islam”.

The body found the “political Islam” tag used by the FCO was too “vague” as the Government uses it to describe groups that embrace democratic principles and liberal values and groups that hold intolerant, extremist views.

Mr Blunt said: “Through its counter-extremism and counter-terrorism strategies, it is clear what values the UK opposes.”

“But the UK’s standing in the world also depends on it clearly articulating, through the FCO, the values that this country supports and therefore the groups with which we will engage.”

‘Political Islam’, and the Muslim Brotherhood UK Review

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Report:

We found that:

• Some political Islamists have embraced elections. Electoral processes that prevent these groups from taking part cannot be called ‘free’. But democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)—where we focused our inquiry— must not be reduced to ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and the FCO must encourage both political Islamists and their opponents to accept broader cultures of democracy.

• The Muslim Brotherhood is a secretive group, with an ambiguous international structure. But this is understandable given the repression it now experiences. • Some communications, particularly from the Brotherhood, have given contradictory messages in Arabic and English. And some of the responses that the group offered to our questions gave the impression of reluctance to offer a straight answer. The FCO is right to judge political Islamists by both their words and their actions.

• Some political Islamists have been very pragmatic in power. Others have been more dogmatic. But fears over the introduction of a restrictive interpretation of ‘Islamic law’ by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Egypt were partly based on speculation rather than experience.

• The UK has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. We agree with this stance. Some political-Islamist groups have broadly been a firewall against extremism and violence.

Extremists have generated hatred

The Pdl deputy and president of Acmid-Donna Onlus (Association of Moroccan women in Italy) Suad Sbai interprets the result of the Swiss referendum as a consequence of the hatred spread by Islamic fundamentalists throughout Europe.

Minarets, in her opinion, more than religious symbols represent the visible, arrogant sign of Political Islam from which, she declares, moderate Islam both in Italy and in the Arab world, distances.

In Italy, she hopes for stronger controls over mosques and self-declared imams as crucial means to contrast Political Islam whose aim is to “Islamize” Europe. Political interventions should create bridges with moderate Islam whilst fighting political Islam.